10 September 2009

A Long Road Ahead

Gun trucks of 2nd Platoon/1864th Gun Truck Company passing a southbound convoy somewhere in Northern Iraq.

Camp Arifjan, Kuwait
11 Sep. 2009
0924 hrs

Another mission. After several days of rumors that no missions would be allocated for at least two weeks, our squad was surprised and excited to find that we were back on deck. This would probably be our longest mission to date, taking us farther North into Iraq than we had ever been before. But due to a few non-combat related injuries (Spc Joe Keith had been airlifted to Germany for a torn ligament in his foot, and Spc Jamaal Uzziel had a shoulder injury) we were short on men. Both Keith and Uzziel were gunners. As it worked out, I would be filling in as a gunner on this mission for our Company Commander, Captain Derek Imig, who was going to be commanding one of our trucks.

I greeted this new assignment with a sense of both excitement and trepidation. I had been wanting to take a few missions as a gunner anyway, and looked at the chance as not so much something new, but as a really great photo-op. On the other hand, I hadnt fired the .50 since Camp Atterbury last April, and I was gunning for my Commander's truck. To make matters even worse, we would be Wolfpack 4 on this trip. The last gun truck in the convoy, and for some reason, the insurgency had been known to target the trail gun trucks with IED's. No pressure, there.

In the few days we had before our mission left, I had time to think alot about things I could control and things I could not control. To say I was a bit rusty on the workings of the .50 caliber machine gun was an understatement. I mean, if you break it down into it's simplest terms, the .50 cal hasnt really changed in design or function since it was first developed in 1913. It's the original "point and click." I knew it would all come back to me in time, and in a pinch, I could always rely on Spc Jake Sere, or PFC Joel Martin, two of our top gunners to bring me up to speed.

What I could not control was what happens out there beyond the safety of my armored turret. What had been on my mind most of all, was the increase of reports of bombings and unrest throughout Iraq. I dont think it's the possibility of death that scares me as much as the mechanics of it. In 20 years as a Police Officer, I've seen more homicides, suicides, and fatal car wrecks than I care to remember. I've seen time and time again what a bullet does to a human body. Through it all though, other people's trauma never seemed to bother me. When I was 12 years old, I smashed my finger in my dad's car door. My finger swelled up and turned black and blue as the blood pooled under my nail. My Dad, a former US Army medic, heated the tip of an un-bent paper clip and melted a small hole in my nail to release the blood and the pressure. The sight of my own blood oozing from my finger nearly caused me to wet myself.

I've tried not to think about the possibility of dying, and although the overly-brave and phony-tough amongst us will probably read this and give me good natured hell for it, I know that they think about it too. It's just not something that we discuss, as though discussing it will somehow reveal vulnerabilities within oursleves that we dont want others to see, or make what is a only a slight possibility an inevitablity.

Courage is not charging your enemy with a fixed bayonet while running into a hail of gunfire, cigar clenched in your teeth, as you clamber over the trench wall into battle yelling "Follow me, men!" Courage is knowing that your scared, but going anyway. Courage is putting the possibility of dying out of your mind and giving your situation over to a greater power and letting Him handle the rest. In the past several days and weeks, that's what I've tried to do. I told someone recently that whatever will happen or wont happen while I'm over here has already been written, and theres little I can do to affect the outcome.

It doesnt matter whether we or anybody else agrees with the war or not. After 8 years of war at the cost of nearly 5000 American lives on two fronts, it's safe to say that were all tired of it, soldiers as well as those at home, and just want to come home. But, agree or disagree, we have a mission here that we've been asked to complete. Were here, and we have to finish the job.

So, in a few hours I'll put on my uniform one more time. I'll grab my helmet and my ruck, my weapon, my ammo, and my body armor one more time, and I'll walk out to my truck and get to work. I'll mount my .50, climb into my turret and enjoy the best view in the house. As we cross the border soon and dissapear behind that black curtain of night into the Iraqi desert, I have no idea whats on the other side. What I do know, is that if we are called upon to fight, that I can see myself getting mean real fast. Like I told my 23 year old daughter Ashley last night on-line when she told me to please be careful and that she worries about me..."Dont worry, baby. I'm too mean to kill that easy".

1 comment:

  1. Its true Ashley your dad is too mean take it from his little brother (who subsaquently will now whoop is aging ass, kidding Gary dont punch me)Your dad can be mean!!!!!!